Meaningful-use implications for
selecting radiology EHRs
For radiology practices, it’s important to find a vendor that can unify the EHR, PACS/RIS and patient portal. By Steve Deaton, Viztek
odern electronic health records (EHRs) must provide several core functions in order to help radiology practices reach current stages of meaningful use and fulfill increasingly more demanding future stages. A key component of such EHRs is to provide simple access to prior patient data; for example, enabling a regional hospital to quickly access MRI images that were completed at a local radiology practice. With meaningful-use Stage 1 completed, some radiology practices are selecting vendors that might only meet the minimal requirements, without considering the future needs of the practice and possible Stage 2, 3 and 4 requirements. Stage 1 of meaningful use requires practices to implement various systems and procedures with the intent of providing improved and transparent access to information by various parties. The requirements specifically mention that providers need to “provide patients with an electronic copy of their health information upon request.” EHR solutions that are based upon nimble cloud-based platforms are ideally suited for this, as they can be structured to give patients direct ac- cess from any Internet-enabled device. Patients should be given real-time access, which is nearly impossible to achieve without a patient portal built in as a part of the overall EHR system. These patients need electronic copies of their records, as well as access to education resources that should be hosted within the EHR solution. Many practices currently do not have a patient portal because their EHR or radiology informa- tion system (RIS) does not have an integrated package for it. This often happens when the vendor simply does not write code for a new module and expects practices to find another third-party solution to “bolt on” to their system. For radiology practices, finding a vendor that can unify
the EHR, picture archiving and communication system (PACS), RIS and the patient portal allows them to fulfill various meaningful-use requirements without the inherent security risks that come with bundling several third-party
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systems. True integration of the various systems and the e-prescribing component can reduce the risk of er-
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rors and presents the opportunity to put in place a seamless system of alerts and flags that will follow the patient through the entire lifecycle.
If a practice utilizes a vendor that cannot fulfill the refer- ring physician and patient portal requirements, and pushes the practice to a third party, then the benefits of integration are lost. With the implementation of a complete cloud-based EHR approach, all of the portals feature real connectivity that reduces errors and ensures continuity of care. A truly Web-based referring physician portal is key to allowing the review of patient exams from any Internet-enabled device. Such a tool is vital for shedding visibility into the scheduling of patients for imaging studies, so staff can track such patients and make sure the needed exams are actually performed.
Radiology practices that pursue an integrated cloud system that brings together the EHR, RIS and PACS are setting themselves up for fewer regulatory headaches.
Many radiology practices have experienced difficulties in meeting meaningful-use requirements without a cloud-based solution. Such issues will only worsen as the regulatory re- quirements of Stage 2 and 3 continue until 2015 and place further demands on practices to enhance access and improve the flow of information. Improving accessibility for patients and referring physicians in order to meet meaningful use is difficult and requires an embrace of technology. Radiology
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